Retiring boomers a potential boon for nonprofits

If American nonprofits play their cards right, they could reap the benefits of millions of retiring baby boomers, many of whom have are qualified and motivated to volunteer, new research says.

Using data from a survey conducted by the University of Michigan for the National Institute on Aging, the Urban Institute’s Retirement Project conducted three research briefs analyzing volunteer tendencies and behaviors of people retiring from the workforce.

This year, the first wave of 76 million baby boomers will hit retirement age, and if historical trends continue, almost half of them will engage in formal volunteering, says one report, “Will Retiring Boomers Form a New Army of Volunteers.”

And retirees who consider religion important, as well as those who are married to someone who donates their time, may be even more likely to volunteer, the study says.

Seniors who volunteered their time before retirement are more likely to continue after they stop working, says another report, “Retaining Older Volunteers is Key to Meeting Future Volunteer Needs.”

And the longer seniors put off volunteering, the less likely they are to start, although having a spouse who volunteers in some cases spurs them to action.

“Recruiting older adults in volunteer activities early on, ideally before they retire, could fill any remaining gaps in volunteer needs,” the report says.

A third report, “Are We Taking Full Advantage of Older Adults?”, estimates that more than 10 million healthy seniors, half of them under age 75, were not working or volunteering in 2004.

It may take some effort on the part of nonprofits and policy makers to encourage these seniors to volunteer, particularly among those with limited education or work experience.

And given that lower-income seniors are less likely to volunteer than their wealthier counterparts, additional incentives could be required.

That could include training, additional federal funding for low-income seniors or better networks connecting people to volunteer opportunities.

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